Police raid company of Russia`s richest woman

Crack forces raided the office of Russia`s richest woman today in a probe linked to an emergency loan she took from a bank founded by the deposed mayor of Moscow -- who is also her husband.

Last Updated: Feb 17, 2011, 21:42 PM IST

Moscow: Crack forces raided the office of
Russia`s richest woman on Thursday in a probe linked to an emergency
loan she took from a bank founded by the deposed mayor of
Moscow -- who is also her husband.

Yelena Baturina called the police sweep a political
provocation that had nothing to do with the loan her Inteko
construction company took from the Bank of Moscow.

"I know for certain that these searches have no relation
to either our company or the Bank of Moscow," Interfax quoted
Baturina as saying.

"This is simply an ordered (raid) and a form of
(political) pressure," she added.

Investigators said the raid was linked to a loan taken by
Inteko in 2009 as her company`s finances suffered from the
aftermath of the global financial crisis.

"The searches are being conducted within the frameworks
of a criminal investigation into the embezzlement of 13
billion roubles from the Bank of Moscow," an interior ministry
spokeswoman told Interfax.

The probe into the disputed loan was launched only weeks
after the dramatic departure of Yury Luzhkov from his mayoral
seat over the same allegations.

The Kremlin accused the mayor of corruption and
investigators launched an inquiry into a 12.76 billion rouble
(435 million dollar) loan the bank issued to a little known
firm in 2009 that was allegedly nothing more than a shell
company.

Various media reports said the small firm then went on to
purchase a plot of land at what investigators believe was an
inflated price from Baturina`s debt-ridden Inteko Company.

Inteko then allegedly used the proceeds to pay off a
large chunk of its maturing debts and stay solvent.

The Vedomosti business daily said the company that acted
as the intermediary in the transaction was partially owned by
Bank of Moscow executives and had been set up only three
months prior to the disputed land deal.

The Financial Times reported that the transaction took
place on the same day as the Moscow city parliament approved a
15-billion-rouble transfer to the Bank of Moscow.

It said Russia`s interior ministry was checking whether
the funds were transferred to Baturina to help her settle her
debts.

Investigators confirmed that their inquiry was focusing
on the role Russia`s richest woman played in the transaction.

"If there are reasons to believe that Baturina knows
something, we will invite Baturina" for questioning, interior
ministry investigator Alexei Naichin told a news
agency.

PTI